Kerry is a dementia coach who started working with people with dementia in 2002. I have been excited about what people with dementia CAN do since the first day I started working with them! Whether I was engaged with them cooking, doing kickboxing, putting together a play, writing for a newsletter or just plain having a fun time together. This perspective is what motivated me to return to school for my masters expecting to run a nursing home one day. I felt that would put me in a position to train others to see this other side of this population. While my journey looked different, this is exactly my role everyday now! My work carries me throughout all kinds of settings from assisted livings to hospitals, from hospice to convents! Wherever large groups of people with dementia gather, I hope to be there with them!
Along the way, I began to carve out time to work directly with families. As a coach, I help to educate and encourage family members who are taking care of someone they love with this disease. Writing I Care has been a tremendous help to families already. Often, I would walk out of a meeting with a family and think, “I need to send them part of chapter 3”. Jennifer and I have worked so well together and think the same way, making this work a real joy and a real encouragement to us. We are excited that I Care is available to professionals in the field and to families that in their homes!
Jennifer is a speech-language pathologist who has worked with people with dementia for over 20 years. At my very first job after graduate school I was very fortunate to have a mentor who taught me the importance of getting to know each client as a person with a rich history, likes, dislikes, interesting experiences, hobbies, children, tragedies, etc. I learned to view the clients who came to me for speech therapy services not as a person with a disorder that needed to be fixed, but as a person with strengths who had many skills and interests. Very quickly, I grew to look forward to hearing the stories of and spending time with my clients.
Early in my career I became frustrated that health care professionals were not doing enough with and for people with dementia to help them be successful in their daily life. In many of the nursing homes where I worked, people with dementia were idle and staff complained that they exhibited “behaviors.” I decided to focus on research that would help people with cognitive impairment learn new information and functioning more independently. I have published many articles about this research and look forward to sharing what I have learned in future blogs. I feel honored and privileged to have written I Carewith Kerry so that we may share some of what we have learned with others.
Our hope in writing I Care is for you and your loved one with dementia is to have a fulfilling, loving, and nurturing relationship and to minimize any depression and stress you might feel when caring for someone you love. Every chapter has many useful and practical suggestions to help you feel empowered, rather than defeated, while dealing with the daily trials of dementia.
I Care will help you change how you think about dementia. If you change how you think about the condition, you will change your approach. Your attitude toward dementia and toward your loved one will have a huge impact on your perception and how the disease will affect your life.
Through years of experience working with people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, we have learned what is necessary to prepare for the future while living in the present, how to make the most of your day, where to look for help when you need it, how to communicate effectively with someone with memory loss, and where to make changes in your home so it is safe. I Care clearly explains the essential information you need to be the best care partner you can be. As you gain more understanding regarding the unique needs of someone with dementia and initiate the strategies we suggest, your overall stress will lessen and your sense of being overwhelmed will diminish.
Although Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia present daily challenges, we have confidence that this book will help you focus on the joys of what still is, rather than what is not. Despite the despair that many families speak of, we believe there is more to the story and therefore want to offer you hope. There will be days (hopefully many) when you will laugh; there will be days when you will be surprised by your own strength; there will be days when you learn new things about the person you have known for most of your life; there will be days when you realize your great love for this person; and there will be days when you will be acutely aware of his or her great love for you.
Despite how your relationship with dementia started, you now have the opportunity to enjoy what might arguably be some of your best days yet and some of the best days for your loved one as well!